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Letter from the editor | 284

Journalism for science

In October 1999, the Notícias FAPESP newsletter became the Pesquisa FAPESP journal, expanding the mission for scientific dissemination begun four years earlier by the foundation from which the publication gets its name. Two decades later, the need and desire to inform the public about science produced in Brazil and in the state of São Paulo remains as strong as ever.

Research institutions—whether universities, institutes, or businesses—are facing an old challenge, but of new proportions: the crisis of confidence in science. Unlike religion, science is not a belief system. But because of its complexity, it is difficult to understand every result in detail.

Knowing the scientific principles and methodology behind a study, including any limitations, is essential to society’s understanding of how scientific results are generated, and consequently to enabling people to evaluate and use these results as a basis for rational choices. The merits and principles of science, however, do not make it infallible. For this reason, even if it seems contradictory, identifying potential errors in the scientific process is important to ensuring credibility.

The public’s current crisis of confidence in science—not just in Brazil—is the subject of this issue’s cover story, chosen to mark the journal’s 20-year anniversary because it is so relevant to its entire reason for existence. The Wellcome Global Monitor report, which surveyed 140,000 people in 144 countries, found that 73% of Brazilians distrust science, similar to the 77% seen in both France and Japan.

The data is not encouraging, but it serves as a warning. Everyone needs to address the problem together, including the scientific community, journalists, educators, and policymakers. Researchers are becoming more aware of the need to responsibly report not only their findings, but also how they obtained them. One example is the dissemination strategy of a large study that mapped genetic influences on homosexual behavior.

In Pesquisa FAPESP’s 20 years, the press has also faced a number of major challenges, some of which overlap with science. The advancement of the internet has given readers more options by broadening access to information, but at the same time, people now need to filter sources more than before to ensure veracity. Avoiding inaccurate or even fake content requires a more concerted effort.

Completing two decades in pursuit of this mission is a significant milestone. Pesquisa FAPESP has grown from a newsletter produced for a small group of researchers to a major journalistic publication recognized for its high quality. The journal gives its readers insight into the scientific and technological research being conducted in Brazil and by Brazilians worldwide in all fields of knowledge, as well as related topics such as science and innovation policy and good scientific practices. At the same time, it seeks to highlight the science behind everyday issues, such as how fires in the rainforest have historically been monitored, and encourages readers to think about the future by reporting on topics such as the socioeconomic impacts of hydroelectric plants like the Belo Monte Dam. The Pesquisa FAPESP team thanks you for reading. It is an honor to be involved in this mission, in which we all have our own part to play.

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